Whether you’re an archetypal A-type or a Zen master, there are times when just about all of us have wanted to shave a few minutes off our commutes. Unfortunately, an increasing number of VRE’s passengers have chosen one of the most dangerous and ill-advised methods out there: crossing railroad tracks at a place where there is no crosswalk, or dashing across the tracks even when the signal lights are flashing and the horizontal warning bar has lowered.

The problem is particularly worrisome at our Quantico, Burke, Manassas and Fredericksburg stations. At Burke Centre, people using the parking garage on the north side of the tracks cut across to access the shopping center located on the southside of the tracks, and then cross again to get back to their vehicles. They’re crossing at a very sharp curve in the track with zero sight warnings of an approaching train, and because there’s not road crossing there either, there’s no whistle warning.

It’s an extremely dangerous situation, and it’s illegal too—in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is illegal to cross a railroad track outside of a marked crosswalk. Doing so is considered trespassing and puts you at risk of citation or, of course, worse.

Track improvements allow track speeds to increase, so approaching trains move at an extremely fast pace. People may feel inclined to walk around the end of a stopped train, not realizing a second train is approaching. Or, they’ll see one train pass and start to cross, oblivious to a second approaching train because they’re so focused on the one they see right in front of them, which has lead to tragedy.

When people walk with lowered heads, headphones jammed into their ears, or are focused on a cell phone conversation, situational awareness is lost. Never ignore or go around flashing red lights and a horizontal gate. Never cross a railroad track anywhere but a crosswalk. Always look and listen if you want to live.